”Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus…However He Eats Traif on Shabbas”

A few days ago, I received an email from my 12 year-old Lubavitch cousin Mushki who lives in
Crown Heights, Brooklyn. To my memory, I hadn’t met her before moving to New York City four years ago. I saw her a handful of times in my three years in Manhattan and this email was the first contact we’ve had since I left. (If you hadn’t heard, kids are into this thing called the Internets.) Follow our back-and-forth for a minute. Pink, her words; blue, mine. Just like the pegs in Life.

Here’s what she writes:


hi benjamin!!!!! mommy told me that you want pictures of us so this is it!!! some are from monrdechai’s wedding and some are of baruch rafael. all of the ones of toby and i are saved on a different comouter!!!!

This just in: one dollar of tzedakah went to a pushke in 770 for every exclamation point used in that email. (I think I grew payes just writing that sentence.)

Hi Mushki! How are you? I’m great. Thanks for writing and for sending these nice pictures. So how old are you now? Israel is great-the winter is very easy here, not like in New York. Chanukah was nice-they sell sufganiot everywhere here.

Pretty straight-forward. Here’s where it gets interesting.

I will!!!!!! im 12 still (i turned bat mitzvah in february (i was born in a leap year so techically im still 4)) im going to try to het pictures of me onto this computer so i can send them to you. wanna send me a ticket to israel???? i want to go so badly!!!! if i get to go then i’ll visit you!!! i put in several tickets to win a raffle!!! new york is so cold its scary!!!!!!!! i freeze to death with 24 blankets!!!!!!!!!!!!

i dont like sufganiot anyway but they sold it alot of places here. shabbos in israel is really nice isnt it?? you can walk in the streets and there are no cars b/c its shabbos and not alot of people drive. thats so peaceful!!! so lucky!!!!!!!!!!! i miss you!!! everyone sends regards!!!!

There are no cars in Tel Aviv. And I have a bridge in Khan Yunis for sale.

Ha ha-I wish I could send you a ticket to Israel. If I could afford that, I would fly home to see my family! Shabbos is nice here but people celebrate it differently everywhere (like in America.) In Jerusalem, everything shuts down. In Tel Aviv, most things shut down except for restaurants so people go there a lot to relax and socialize with friends. You’ll have to come see it someday!

Nice little plug at the end. Jewish Agency, you owe me dinner. Ok, so check out the response.

but i thought tel aviv was completely jewish!! how could it be that the restaurants are open??? is it that they are open but dont give food, its just for people to relax????

Good job, self. So now what do I do? I feel like I have to tell my imaginary goyisha child that Santa Claus doesn’t exist.

What would you write, my loyal readers? In my last email, I accidentally left the address to this site in the message. I wonder if she’s reading this right now. If she discovers something here causing her to leave the Orthodox world, I’m going to be in big trouble.

Update: Here is my response.

The answer is that Israel is as Jewishly diverse as America. You have Jews who are Jewish through their religious practice, Jews who are Jewish through their traditions and connection to culture and community, and Jews who are completely secular and don’t feel the need to incorporate Judaism in their lives daily because they feel Jewish just by LIVING in Israel.

When everyone is Jewish, people don’t have to try as hard because they’re surrounded by Judaism. That may not make sense-you have to see it to get it.

Jerusalem is a very religious city; Tel Aviv is less so, just like the communities in Brooklyn are more Jewishly observant than in Manhattan.


I look forward to you visiting!

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